Lemon water has been in the media a lot lately. Eating lemon for weight loss or drinking its juice for detox is common practice. This fruit has emerged as a natural fat burner and digestive aid. Proponents say that lemon water increases metabolism, cleanses the liver and boosts overall health, but can you really trust these claims?
Swap sugar-sweetened beverages, cocktails and other high-calorie drinks for lemon water. This healthful beverage is rich in vitamin C, naringin and other antioxidants that may aid in weight loss, among other benefits.
Make your own lemon water using fresh lemons, ginger, turmeric, warm or cold water and stevia for sweetness. Commercial versions are typically loaded with sugar and empty calories.
The Skinny on Lemon Water
Lemon water is promoted as a natural detox drink. Thousands of bloggers claim that it flushes out toxins, slows down aging, boosts energy and facilitates weight loss. But none of these claims is backed by proof. No studies have ever shown that drinking lemon water increases fat burning or erases wrinkles.
However, this beverage can be a healthy addition to your routine. Lemon, its main ingredient, is loaded with vitamin C. The same goes for fresh lemon juice, which is just as nutritious as the whole fruit, but lower in fiber.
One small lemon (one serving, which equal to about 2 ounces) has only 17 calories and provides more than one-third of the daily recommended vitamin C intake, plus small doses of iron, calcium, potassium and vitamin E. One serving of lemon juice, or a half of a cup, by comparison, has 27 calories and delivers 52 percent of the daily value of vitamin C. It's also slightly higher in potassium, magnesium and zinc.
Like most citrus fruits, lemons and their juice are rich in carotenoids, flavonoids, ferulic acid, naringin and other antioxidants, as reported in a review published in the American Journal of Food Technology in November 2012. These bioactive compounds neutralize free radicals and support overall health. Some even exhibit anti-obesity effects.
Naringin, for example, boasts anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and antimutagenic properties. According to a recent study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine in February 2019, this flavonoid may reduce abdominal fat, body fat and waist circumference. It also appears to have beneficial effects on blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Researchers suggest that naringin may help prevent metabolic syndrome due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. The downside is that most studies cited in the above review have been conducted on rats and other animals. Therefore, it's hard to tell whether or not these findings apply to humans.
Lemon Water and Weight Loss
This popular beverage is made with warm water and freshly squeezed lemon juice. None of these ingredients has fat burning properties. However, they can help you shed pounds by other means.
Plain water, for example, has zero calories and fills you up quickly. It's a much healthier alternative to soda and caffeinated drinks.
Read more: 12 Ways to Make Water Taste (Much) Better
A February 2016 study published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics suggests that drinking more water may help reduce daily calorie intake and improve diet quality. Water consumption has been linked to a reduction in daily energy intake from food and soft drinks and lower intakes of sugar, sodium and dietary cholesterol.
Drinking more water may also prevent weight gain, according to a large-scale study published in the International Journal of Obesity in January 2013. The subjects who replaced one daily serving of fruit juice or sugary drinks with one cup of water gained less weight in the long run than those who didn't make these changes.
When you're on a diet, plain water is your best ally. You could lose a few pounds just by swapping your morning latte for water. Lemon juice can further enhance its benefits.
The Slimming Effects of Lemon
Citric acid, one of the nutrients in lemon, prevents the formation of kidney stones. This fruit also boasts large doses of vitamin C, which can act as a diuretic, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. If you're struggling with water weight or high blood pressure, lemon water may help.
Vitamin C not only reduces fluid retention, but it may also accelerate weight loss. A review published in the Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology in 2014 suggests that antioxidants may play a role in obesity treatment. Vitamin C appears to be particularly beneficial. This nutrient fights obesity-related inflammation, increases fat breakdown (lipolysis) and prevents your body from converting glucose to fat.
The same review states that vitamin C may lower blood sugar levels and increase fat oxidation. At the same time, it may protect against diabetes due to its antioxidant and hypoglycemic effects. This nutrient also protects your skin from oxidative stress and UV-induced damage, which in turn, may help slow the aging process. Its role in collagen synthesis is well-documented.
Lemon water isn't a miracle drink, however. Its primary ingredients, though, work synergistically and can make weight loss easier. You can just as well eat lemon for weight loss — just remember to drink plenty of water and avoid empty calories.
Lemon Water Diet Plan
You've probably heard of the 14-day lemon water challenge, lemon water detox plans and other fad diets. Like it or not, there is no quick fix for weight loss. Crash diets harm your health, leading to fatigue, nausea, muscle and bone loss, gallstones, gout and digestive distress. In the long run, they can slow down your metabolism, making it harder to lose weight and keep it off.
Drink lemon water as part of a balanced diet. Cut down on sugary desserts and sweetened beverages, junk food, and other processed foods. Watch out for hidden sugars, such as those in protein bars, granola bars and breakfast cereals. High-fructose corn syrup, dextrose, sucrose, caramel, glucose, carob syrup and cane juice are nothing but sugar in disguise.
A whopping 74 percent of all packaged foods contain added sugar, according to the University of California, San Francisco. The same source states that a seemingly healthy breakfast bar can have up to 15 grams of sugar per serving. Some yogurt brands boast as many as 7 teaspoons of sugar in a single serving.
Lemon water alone is unlikely to help you get leaner and healthier. The key is to adopt a balanced lifestyle and change your eating habits in the long term. Start by swapping lemon water for coke, commercial smoothies, cocktails and other sweetened beverages. Enjoy it first thing in the morning, during your workouts or anytime throughout the day.
Now that you know more about the benefits of lemon for weight loss, cut a fruit in half and squeeze it into a glass of water. Add ginger, turmeric and other spices for extra flavor. Drink it right away or wait for about two hours so the flavors can blend.
Some recipes call for warm water, while others are made with ice-cold water. The truth is that it really doesn't matter. Warm water, though, is a better choice for those with sensitive teeth.
- Taylor & Francis Online - Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition: "The Effects of Caffeine Intake on Weight Loss: A Systematic Review and Dose-Response Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials"
- USDA: "Nutrition Facts for Lemons"
- USDA: "Nutrition Facts for Lemon Juice Raw"
- American Journal of Food Technology: "Evaluation of In Vitro Antioxidant Activities of Lemon Juice for Safety Assessment"
- Hindawi - Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine: "Preventive Effect of Naringin on Metabolic Syndrome and Its Mechanism of Action: A Systematic Review"
- Wiley Online Library: "Plain Water Consumption in Relation to Energy Intake and Diet Quality Among US Adults, 2005–2012"
- International Journal of Obesity: "Changes in Water and Beverage Intake and Long-Term Weight Changes: Results From Three Prospective Cohort Studies"
- UW Hospital and Clinics: "Citric Acid and Kidney Stones"
- Hopkins Medicine: "Big Doses of Vitamin C May Lower Blood Pressure"
- Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology: "Vitamin C in the Treatment and/or Prevention of Obesity"
- NCBI: "The Roles of Vitamin C in Skin Health"
- MedlinePlus: "Diet for Rapid Weight Loss"
- Victoria State Government - Better Health Channel: "Weight Loss - a Healthy Approach"
- University of California San Francisco: "Hidden in Plain Sight"